Receiving an email yesterday about registration for Ride the Rockies 2018 reminded me that I had never finished this post about Ride the Rockies 2017. So…just in time for the New Year….
Ride the Rockies 2017
Packet Pick-up and First night
Portable ATM machines. Two of them. They were the first thing I noticed in Alamosa at the start of the 2017 Ride the Rockies. Noticing ATM machines was a crazy way to start a 447 mile ride but I had the feeling those machines were going to be important during this ride.
The next thing I noticed was a large FED EX trailer filled with bikes that had been shipped across the country (and world as far as I know) through a service called Bike Flights. That service could have saved us a lot of hassle and headaches during out SE Asian cycle tour, but them we wouldn’t have as many stories to tell. Based upon how many bikes were packed into the tractor trailer and the number of bike mechanics employed to assemble the bikes before the first ride, there were plenty of people who utilized of this service.
Finally, I noticed a company that rents battery packs for the day or the week. I was pretty confident that we could find outlets without the need of a battery pack so we declined this added expense.
Day 1 – Alamosa to Pagosa Springs – 93 miles over Wolf Creek Pass
I woke up at 1:30 am positive I’d slept the entire night. Luckily I fell back asleep but when I awoke again at 5:15 am I knew it was time to get up. We found coffee and free donuts which we thoroughly enjoyed before we started riding.
We savored a strong tail wind for the first 20 miles where we stopped an enjoyed delicious Flippin’ Jacks pancakes. The promise of daily pancakes got Eric cycling with enthusiasm each morning.
Unfortunately, after we swallowed the last bite the wind shifted and the rest of the day we pedaled into headwinds or tried to keep our bikes upright with crosswinds.
Just when our cycling shorts were soaked from sweat and normal people would be stopping for the day, we arrived at the base of Wolf Creek Pass, a solid nine mile, 2500-foot climb. Being passed by a tandem passed on the climb was really discouraging and it wasn’t until we met at a rest area that I noticed the tandem was battery-assisted. What a relief that was.
That evening I sat in our fancy REI backpacking chairs surrounded by a sea of brightly colored tents eating a leftover chicken taco and tortilla chips from our dinner at Kips Cantina in downtown Pagosa Springs. I was stuffed at dinner but needs a snack before bed.
Day 2 – Pagosa Springs to Durango – 66 miles 4000 feet
We awoke to frost in our tent flap, frozen bike shorts that would stand on their own, a dark skies. Eager cyclists had been unzipping their tents since about 4:30 am.
Our frozen shorts thawed quickly on the steep 600-foot climb out of Pagosa.
The rest of the day was hard and I was exhausted to I shortened my notes to bullet points of the day:
1. I kept looking for noodles at each rest stop because I could have sworn I read that they were available. We never found the noodle stop and, consequently, I was starving and had low blood sugar by the time I got to Durango.
2. Deep rumble stripes on the shoulder of Yellowjackets Pass made for some scary passing on the down hill.
3. Speaking of Yellowjacket Pass, it was just the right grade and distance on the uphill. A good climb and fun.
4. Charging all of our electronics is starting to become a problem. (maybe I should have rented the battery pack.
5. A cold beer at the Steamwater Brewery and a nice Italian dinner at Mutto in downtown Durango helped replenish our energy.
7. I got the giggles but don’t remember why.
Day 3 – Hesperus Hill Loop around Durango (optional ride day)
After a wine-beer-ibuprofen-induced sleep we both felt like new people. Then, after a four-shot espresso (Eric) and a four- shot Americano (me) we decided to actually ride. To be honest, after the past two days, we’d been contemplating taking a rest day, but thank goodness we didn’t. The Hesperus Hill loop was the perfect length, with exquisite scenery and a beautiful tail wind for the long downhill back to Durango.
Getting back into town at 12:30 meant we had the afternoon to relax. First we got our chains lubed and gears adjusted. Then we headed into town for the movie “Wonder Woman” which I liked, dinner at Ken and Sue’s which I loved, and time to pack up for the next day which made me sleep better..
This day was my favorite so far and I think it is because Eric and I finally got in our groove together. The first day was the jitters and nerves of the distance, our first group ride, and the stress of trying to maintain a pace line. The second day was miserable (Ok that’s an exaggeration) because Eric and I never rode together, and I saw two bike crashes and the crazy things that some of the riders did which put other riders at risk did not give me time to enjoy the scenery and peace of cycling. But finally, during our “rest day” in Durango, everything came together. We started later. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast. We didn’t try to keep up with any one. And, we stopped and took a ton of pictures.
Day 4 – Durango to Ridgeway – 3 Passes 7500 ft. (This day was very long and hard)
We awoke at 5:00 am but it took us until 7:00 to actually have pedals spinning. It could be that it was cold or that that walk to the bathrooms was long or that the coffee cart espresso machine was not working or that that line for a breakfast quesadilla took 20 minutes. Whatever the reason, we did NOT start the day with enough caffeine.
Consequently, Coal Banks Pass was HARD. It was almost 5000 feet of climbing with some at very steep grades.
I finally rode ahead to Silverton, ordered two hamburgers, listened to some old-timey music played on the piano at The Grand Restaurant and Saloon and waited for Eric to join me. That extra big burger and the double shot espressos that followed gave us the needed energy to climb the third and final pass of the day Red Mountain.
By the time we got to the last Aid Station at Red Mountain Pass, all the food was gone except for one orange slice which I magnanimously gave to Eric. The absence of food was negated by the celebratory mood. Those who had made it this far knew it was all downhill (literally) from here.
After showers and putting up the tent, we took the shuttle bus into Ridgeway (neither of us could ride another mile) danced to live music at the park where the movie True Grit was shown, ate a hot dog, and sipped a beer.
Day 5 – Ridgeway to Montrose with a challenge ride out to Cornerstone, Colorado. 50 miles
The first fifteen miles were an easy downhill with a tailwind to Colona where we stopped for delicious coffee and homemade donuts at the La Zona Colona Coffee shop. This wonderful stop fueled us for the nine- mile uphill on Government Springs Road to a new town called Cornerstone, Colorado.
The highlight to me of this day was cycling to my parents’ house and spending the afternoon, evening, and night with them. We had a delicious lunch, got our hair cut, did a little shopping in downtown Montrose, and went to the beer garden that was set up for Ride the Rockies.
It felt great to sleep in a real bed but, after being in a tent for the past four nights, I think I didn’t sleep as well in the bed as I would have thought.
Day 6 – Montrose to Gunnison – 65 miles
Warm temperatures and the promise of a strong head-wind climbing Cerro Summit encouraged us to get going by 6:45 am. Even with the early start, we arrived late into Gunnison because the food lines were so long at each stop.
It was hot in Gunnison, so after showering we headed downtown to drink a cold beer. Eric was so tired that he fell asleep on the couch of the saloon. After putting a plate of chicken wings under his nose, he woke up enough to eat a plateful and drink his beer. I thought I was going to have to order a taxi to get him back to the camp site.
As a side note, camping in Gunnison was the most beautiful spot of the trip but the mosquitoes were pretty bad and it just seem better to avoid them and hop into the tent.
Day 6 – Gunnison to Salida – 67 miles
Waking up I had to admit that I was ready to be finished.
Cycling the long, slow climb to the top of Monarch Pass was like a trip down memory lane. Monarch is a pass I’ve known all my life for it’s splendor during summer drives to Denver to visit grandparents, and for the memory of my dad walking in front of our car during a blinding snow storm. The reward for reaching the summit was a screaming fast and fun downhill into Salida. We got to the finish line with plenty of time to shower, eat and relax before catching the shuttle bus back to our car in Alamosa.
Although Ride the Rockies was memorable and fun there are also many things that made the tour seem more like work and less like a vacation: the distances, the speed, the number of people competing for food and campsites, and the early unzipping of the tents.
Receiving yesterday’s email gave Eric and me the joy of reliving the ride. It also reminded us to ask ourselves….
Will we register again? Only time will tell…
N.B. The ATMS were kept busy with all the food venders along the way needing cash.There were several places we could have used a battery pack, but we got pretty clever at scouting out plugs in high school gyms.
For a summary of our ride click here: